Obama’s Hollywood links hamstring campaign pitch

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The pollsters’ alarms are flashing for President Barack Obama, but he’s wrapping himself tighter in the glamorous embrace of Hollywood and the nation’s entertainment industry, despite growing alienation among middle class swing-voters.

He’s heading to New York city for two June 14 fundraisers whose $40,000 and $10,000 tickets were snapped up by roughly 275 wealthy supporters, including many fashion industry insiders.

The $40,000 ticket event is hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour and actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who played a newspaper columnist on TV’s “Sex and the City” series.

The high-dollar fundraisers will take place shortly after Obama gives a meat-and-potatoes speech in Ohio, where he’s expected to claim that his second term will yield better results for middle class Americans than a White House occupied by Mitt Romney.

The latest warning signal came June 14 from longtime Democratic pollster Peter Hart.

“Our focus groups show that voters see a lot of glamour and glitz from the Obama administration… [but] they need to be able to see that it’s not just the old Obama giving them the charisma and the cool,” he told NBC news.

Colorado focus groups showed that Obama “needs to be out there feeling what they are feeling, a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, a lot of uncertainty… [the voters] need to see substance over style,” he said.

GOP advocates have been doing their best to exacerbate Obama’s growing image problem, partly by highlighting his ties to Hollywood and the fashion industry, but also by contrasting it with the nation’s record unemployment, debt and deficits.

They’re also trying to use his Hollywood connections to help paint Obama as out-of-touch with ordinary Americans worried about jobs, mortgages and their children’s futures.

On June 11 Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, tweeted out a message about Wintour’s notoriously brusque and high-handed treatment of her staff. The tweet cited a Wikipedia link that sketched Wintour’s refusal to hire people that she deems fat, for example.

Some of the damage, however, is purely self-inflicted. For example, a June poll of North Carolina voters showed that Obama’s support had dropped sharply since his endorsement of same-sex marriage following pressure from gay-friendly culture-industry insiders. The poll, announced June 12 by Public Policy Polling, showed that 20 percent of a small sample of 200 African-American voters supported Romney.

If that small sample is an accurate representation of African-American opinion in North Carolina, it would cost Obama roughly three percent of the state’s ballots and doom Obama’s chances of keeping the state in his column. However, Obama’s outreach to the entertainment industry has several advantages.

It worked well in 2008 to boost his attractiveness to younger voters.

He has greatly boosted his fundraising in the industry by endorsing the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Shortly after he changed his stance, he took in roughly $7 million in tickets from a fundraiser in gay-friendly Hollywood that was hosted by actor George Clooney. He then jetted to New York for several more fundraisers attended by leaders in the gay-friendly fashion industry. Those various events boosted his May fundraising total to $60 million, up from $43 million in April.

The haul kept him close to Romney, who received $76 million, much of it from financial industry insiders alienated by Obama’s repeated criticism of their sector.

Obama’s entertainment industry support is also being used to help recruit and motivate volunteer organizers. For example, actor Kal Penn met with up to 100 of Obama’s volunteers on June 11 in Arlington, Va.

On June 7, he met with two dozen younger actors, including “Glee” actress Dianna Agron and “Star Trek” actor Zachary Quinto. The meeting prompted the actors to tweet out enthusiastic messages, which may help revive Obama’s buzz among his many disenchanted — and often unemployed — young supporters.

Obama is also using leaders in the Hispanic entertainment industry, such as actress Eva Longoria and singer Shakira, to spur support and turnout by Hispanics. Campaign managers say that the Hispanic support and turnout is critical in Florida, Colorado and North Carolina.

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